The Byrd Cage

What If? Previewing Belmont As 15 Seed

In Game Posts on March 5, 2012 at 7:29 am
While currently projected a 14 seed by most experts, the Byrd Cage explores every potential option this week for the Belmont Bruins in our exclusive pre-March Madness content.

First, it is imperative that we understand something at this point: a 15 seed would suck. A lot.

Why? In the 15 v 2 game, the 15 seed has only won four times. None of those four teams won a second game. In other words, a 15 seed is a one and done consolation prize for low major conference teams who happened to win their conference tournament.

That’s the primary reason why I personally don’t expect Belmont to be a 15 seed. Even though Belmont earned a 15 seed in their first three tournament appearances, the Bruins have become a well known mid-major staple among those who are “in the know” in college basketball. How ever, in the interest of being thorough, let’s take a brief look at the potential two seeds.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll look at the four projected two seeds according to CBSSports.com: Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan State and Duke.
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Missouri

Missouri is a prolific offensive team. According to StatSheet.com, the Tigers lead the country in points per posession at 1.19. The team is lead by Senior Guard Marcus Denmon who scores 18 points per game on 47% shooting. The Tigers’ Achilles heel is two-fold; first, although the team is 27-4 many of those wins came against far inferior talent and second, Kansas State.

Missouri’s non-conference strength of schedule was 287th – compare that with Belmont’s 66th ranked non-conference strength of schedule. There’s a caveat here: Missouri split the series with Kansas and beat Baylor twice so they can win against superior talent, but the Tigers lost both contests against 21-9 Kansas State. On Feb 21st, the Wildcats went in to Columbia, MO and beat the Tigers on their home court by ten. Aside from these two shortfalls, Missouri could be a one seed and with a Big 12 tournament win, may still earn a one seed. Missouri will go far in the tournament no matter where they are seeded.

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Ohio State

Don’t be fooled by Ohio State’s #10 AP ranking, Jared Sullinger and his band of Nuts are good enough to win a national championship – Ken Pomeroy has them at #2. What the Buckeyes lack in flashy stats they make up for in defensive efficiency. They’re one of the best in the nation at limiting their opponents’ chances. Ohio State ranks second in the nation in defensive rebound percentage and first in the nation in opponents’ points per possession.

With a win in yesterday East Lansing over Big Ten front-runner Michigan State, the Buckeyes may have snuck into a one seed for the Big Ten Tournament, but the two teams remain in a three way tie with Michigan. Ohio State does not lack strength of schedule – they’ve played the 14th toughest schedule this year. The Buckeyes’ sole “bad” loss came to Illinois. If Belmont draws Ohio State, we’ll need Scott Saunders, Mick Hedgepeth, Boomer Herndon and Adam Mark on the floor to cover Jared Sullinger.

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Michigan State

Who had the toughest schedule in college basketball this season? Michigan State. It’s not only because the Big 10 has been good this year, the Spartans’ non-conference strength of schedule ranks 15th in the country. Michigan State is led by Draymond Green, a Senior Forward who averages 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories.

Michigan State ranks in the Top 10 nationally in only one statistical category: rebound percentage. However, the Spartans are ranked third in the country according to Ken Pomeroy and third in the Massey College Basketball Ranking Comparison. Draymond Green is the heart and soul of this team. For my money, they are the most susceptible to upset of the potential two seeds. If a team develops a scheme to keep the ball out of Green’s hands and force the Spartans to win another way they can be defeated. That, however, will not be an easy task in any round of the tournament. This is another Tom Izzo team that isn’t flashy but manages to win games.

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Duke

If you think it’s a coincidence that I saved the Blue Devils for last, you’re wrong. I would pay money for Belmont to draw Duke again. Unfortunately, I bet Coach K would pay ten times my wager to avoid Belmont. The Bruins and Blue Devils have faced each other only twice. Duke has claimed both contests but only by a combined two points.

Duke is a big question mark this year for many in the college basketball world. Duke suffered through the 2nd most difficult schedule this year and dropped only five games – only one of those to a sub-50 RPI team (Miami’s RPI was 51). Yet, even with wins over Kansas, UNC, Michigan State, and Michigan the onlookers want more.

Duke always has a chance to win the ACC and that’s what it will take to move the Blue Devils from a two seed to a one seed. This Duke team is like all Duke teams. They’re balanced on offense and they play defense when they feel like it. Duke ranks 62nd nationally in rebounds per game – an area of their game I’m sure Coach Krzyzewski will be working on in the wake of 18 point blowout at home at the hands of Tobacco Road rival UNC; a game in which Duke was out-rebounded 42 to 22.

I’d give anything to watch Belmont take on Duke again. At the same time I hope they don’t. Duke will be a one or a two seed and I do not want Belmont to be a 15 seed.

At the end of the day I don’t want Belmont to play any of these teams. Not because I don’t think Belmont could win, but because these are all teams who believe they have a chance at a national championship and with that in mind, won’t overlook a team like Belmont early in the tournament.

No matter what team lines up against the Bruins in a few weeks, they’ll be wise to prepare heavily. Already comparisons are being drawn to last year’s Belmont team, but the two could not be more different.

I can’t wait for Selection Sunday which, in my opinion, is the single greatest day in all of collegiate sport.

-Matt Sherrill

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  1. OH my. If we draw Duke again . . .

    I just hope Belmont can remember how to have a decent first half again. Ever since the Mercer game our first halves have been rough going.

  2. Thats a good point Kyle. The first halfs have not been pretty. It felt like teams were throwing all they could at us in the first half. Anything to throw us off. They werent able to sustain that throughout though. We have clearly made the better second half adjustments. But no one has ever accused any other coach in this conference of being a genius.

  3. Matt, I love the Byrd Cage. Was part of the Byrd Cage for years…I like how you are suggesting that Belmont would have to throw the kitchen sink at Sully, but the part about Boomer being some of that sink…? You have GOT to be kidding me! The years where we had to watch an overweight tub of lard “run” up and down the floor was awful to watch! He can’t guard a chair, let alone one of the better big men in the country. Good attempt at a joke, but better luck next time…

  4. I have to agree with that Byrd Cage Alum dude or dudette. Did you see me trying to guard Roy Hibbert in that Georgetown game? Yikes.

  5. Thanks for reading Alum. I actually wasn’t kidding. Although I probably should’ve included Andrew Preston in that mention as well. I’ll try to do better next time. Do you remember that time Boomer almost died from a fish bone or something. Life is so precious.

  6. BOOMER HUNGRY.

  7. I really wanted Belmont to get a 14 seed and be pitted against Baylor as a 3 seed. Looks like that might not happen unless something crazy happens in the Big 12 tournament.

  8. Don’t forget about me, fellas.

  9. Boomer Herndon wears Adam Sonn pajamas.

    What we learned again against ETSU: A team with exceptional length is our worst nightmare (note Memphis game here). People who play us zone with athletic close out length on the wings will give us problems.

    Dream scenario: Belmont at a 14 seed (realistic) draws 3 seed Indiana who gets hot in the B10/12 Tourney.

  10. Charlie, what about the Plumlees? I agree with you about the size thing to an extent- but how come we could play with Duke? Personally, I think if we played Duke again it might be a 20 point affair- no contest, as the young Duke team has it together now. But, I really am mystified as to how we can screw up Memphis royally (we can’t forget their 3P%) and almost upset the Blue Devils. Is it a power forward thing? Can we just not defend the 6-7,6-8 guys that can penetrate and shoot (why I’m scared of Marquette)?

    • Teams with long wings just cause matchup issues for us. Playing mick and Scott at the same time has proven ineffective against nearly any team with an ounce of talent. That means bringing Trevor and Baker into the rotation more and though both play hard both can be liabilities at times, though at opposite ends of the floor.

      Count on our coaches to find the best scheme available. For that reason I want a matchup with a youthful team that lacks depth. I won’t shy away from a team with athletic scoring ability if they only play 8 guys. See Louisville, Indiana, Georgetown.

  11. […] tomorrow, (much like last year) The Byrd Cage’s bracket bros will be previewing Belmont’s potential matchups […]

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